III. POCKETED THE
I smarted under the insult, but as I had pocketed many
such in the past I had become inured to them. I therefore
decided to forget this latest one and take what course a
dispassionate view of the case might suggest.
We had a letter from the Chief of the Asiatic
Department to the effect that, as I had been found
necessary to omit my name from the deputation which was
to wait on him.
The letter was more than my co-workers could bear.
They proposed to drop the idea of the deputation
altogether. I pointed out to them the awkward situation
of the community.
If you do not represent your case before Mr.
Chamberlain,' said I, 'it will be presumed that you have
no case at all. After all, the representation has to be
made in writing, and we have got it ready. It does not
matter in the least whether I read it or someone else
reads it. Mr. Chamberlain is not going to argue the
matter with us. I am afraid we must swallow the insult.'
I had scarcely finished speaking when Tyeb Sheth cried
out, 'Does not an insult to you amount to an insult to
the community? How can we forget that you are our
'Too true.' said I. 'But even the community will have
to pocket insults like these. Have we any alternative?'
'Come what may, why should we swallow a fresh insult?
Nothing worse can possibly happen to us. Have we many
rights to lose?' asked Tyeb Sheth.
It was a spirited reply, but of what avail was it? I
was fully conscious of the limitations of the community.
I pacified my friends and advised them to have, in my
place, Mr. George Godfrey, an Indian barrister.
So Mr. Godfrey led the deputation. Mr. Chamberlain
referred in his reply to my exclusion. 'Rather than hear
the same representative over and over again, is it not
better to have someone new?' he said, and tried to heal
But all this, far from ending the matter, only added
to the work of the community and also to mine. We had to
'It is at your instance that the community helped in
the war, and you see the result now,' were the words with
which some people taunted me. But the taunt had no
effect. 'I do not regret my advice,' said I. 'I maintain
that we did well in taking part in the war. In doing so
we simply did our duty. We may not look forward to any
reward for our labours, but it is my firm conviction that
all good action is bound to bear fruit in the end. Let us
forget the past and think of the task before us.' With
which the rest agreed.
I added: 'To tell you the truth the work for which you
had called me is practically finished. But I believe I
ought not to leave the Transvaal, so far as it is
possible, even if you permit me to return home. Instead
of carrying on my work from Natal, as before, I must now
do so from here. I must no longer think of returning to
India within a year, but must get enrolled in the
Transvaal Supreme Court. I have confidence enough to deal
with this new department. If we do not do this, the
community will be hounded out of the country, besides
being thoroughly robbed out of the country, besides being
thoroughly robbed. Every day it will have fresh insults
heaped upon it. The facts that Mr. Chamberlain refused to
see me and that the official insulted me, are nothing
before the humiliation of the whole community. It will
become impossible to put up with the veritable dog's life
that we shall be expected to lead.'
So I set the ball rolling, discussed things with
Indians in Pretoria and Johannesburg and ultimately
decided to set up office in Johannesburg.
It was indeed doubtful whether I would be enrolled in
the Transvaal Supreme Court. But the Law Society did not
oppose my application, and the Court allowed it. It was
difficult for an Indian to secure rooms for office in a
suitable locality. But I had come in fairly close contact
with Mr. Ritch, who was then one of the merchants there.
Through the good offices of a house agent known to him, I
succeeded in securing suitable rooms for my office in the
legal quarters of the city, and I started on my